OECD Observer
Healthier energy use

While energy demand in IEA countries has increased steadily since 1973, with only two interruptions, energy savings have been substantial, according to Oil Crises and Climate Challenges: 30 Years of Energy Use in IEA Countries. Compared to 1973, it takes a third less energy to produce a unit of GDP, thanks in part to improved energy efficiency.

This energy end-use intensity for the IEA-11 countries* declined by as much as 2.5% per year on average between 1973 and 1982. Over the next eight years, the decline was still significant, although at a somewhat lower average rate of 1.5% annually. After 1990, the average rate was down to only 0.7% per year.

Energy-saving has lost momentum most prominently in manufacturing, where the average annual rate of decline was a strong 3.5% between 1973 and 1986, yet only 0.6% per year for the 12 years that followed.

Without these 25 years of energy savings, energy consumption would have been almost 50% higher. Over the same period, CO2 emissions declined or grew only modestly in most countries. In the IEA as a whole, CO2 emissions in 1973 were just under 1990 levels. Yet after 1990, many countries saw emissions increase significantly as prices eased and demand surged. Furthermore, in the EU the annual growth in emissions between 1998 and 2001 was stronger than over the previous eight years.

*IEA countries for which complete time series are available: Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Norway, Sweden, UK and US.

©OECD Observer No 243, May 2004